Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

A Look at T4’s Quick Ship Design System

The T4 ship design system is not bad, at a first glance.  Unlike previous versions of Traveller that limited you  to a set number of “hardpoints” based on ship size, T4 assigns a Surface Area requirement for each component.  You can load up as many weapons as you want as long as you can fit them in both the internal space and external surface area.  (Obviously, the shape of your starship will have an impact on the volume and surface area.)  Note that, instead of the usual “generic” critical hit table, you can probably use these figures to come up with a more suitable custom table for each ship.

Each component is rated with power and crew requirement.  Once you’ve got the bulk of your ship designed, you then choose a power plant.  The excess power of 14.3 in the design below is calling out to be relevant in a combat scenario, but alas, it doesn’t appear to matter much in the T4 combat rules.  Determining your crew requirments is a bit more tricky: it’s not just a simple matter of checking your running tally.  Engineering crew is determined with one part of the numbers, command crew based on your total crew size….  Then you have to figure out who gets the nice diggs.  Due to the weird rounding rules in this step, you can’t breeze through this part.  With both these steps, it’s a little strange having to design most of your ship before picking these: you might not have enough space to do what you need, so you may be forced to go back and revise things.

One unusual decision on the part of the designers was to specify armor values within the standard hull tables.  You don’t have the option to vary them.  If you want to increase the defensive capability of a ship you need to add in sandcasters.  A high sandcaster rating can be useful in deflecting laser and missile hits.  (Note that the ranges for the sandcaster table in the combat section are incorrect– they should be VS, S, M, and L.)  But when you buy a sandcaster the rules do not specify what you are getting.  Is it a turret that requires a gunner with a sandcaster rating of 1?  That’s pretty useless.  Is it a turret that requires a gunner with a sandcaster rating of 3?  That’s not so bad.  Can a gunner fire more than one sandcaster per turn?  I see nothing in the rules to help with this question, and once again I’m forced to pick over previous rules editions to try to ascertain what the designer was thinking.  In the ship below I purchased three of the sandcaster items, but I have no idea what I bought or if I can use them!  They take up nearly as much space as the laser, so I will guess that they are good enough to block one and merit a total rating of three and also require a single gunner to operate.  I have no idea if this is right, though.

The computer software section has been cut down quite a bit since the old days, but there still appears to be a remant there that ought to have been excised.  The “Return Fire” has no obvious use in the T4 rules.  Also, the table used to determine the required size of the Jump was ommited from the rulebook.  Looking through the errata, I see that the small ship designs are completely bogus… and that the patrol cruiser was completely mangled.  And missiles seem to be given short shrift: I see no information concerning the cost and space requirments of the standard and nuclear types, nor any information on guided or unguided.  What a mess!

I’ve spent several hours messing with T4 ship combat at this point, and to get any use out of it I still need to continue a comparative analysis between it and the other editions, design a slew of ships, and come up with a good half dozen house rules.  I have doubts that many people ever used these rules….

If you’re interested in the gory details, here’s a complete breakdown of the Patrol Cruiser design I slogged through.


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